Astral Nomads

One man, one woman, one rabbit......traveling with the stars.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Journey to the Center of the Cavern

Hey! Dig the new improved header picture courtesy of Hyro0o0, a user on reddit (a phenomenally cool online user community and news site), who saw our blog and offered to clean up and improve the picture for us and refused to take any compensation. Props to you Hyro0o0! 


There's a couple of things about the southwest that aren't immediately apparent to outsiders like us: first is that water is very important here and the second is that it gets very windy at certain times of the year. I am amazed at how many places there are that advertise fresh water and water cooler jug dispensing machines are everywhere. It is important to stay hydrated in the dry desert climate but it still seems strange to someone like me that comes from the relative wetness of New Jersey. The forecast was for wind so we figured it would be a good day to spend underground at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The winds, predicted at 45mph with gusts to 60mph did not disappoint as they started up before dawn . The old Eurovan was rocking like a boat and the canvas flaps sounded like a sloop under full sail. It was just shy of a dramamine alert.

Eventually the sun came up and it was time to prepare the Eurovan for the
drive to the Caverns.

We could see the dust rising down in the valley. It's either the
wind or we're under attack by Cochise.

Even the National Park System can't avoid a little kitsch I guess.
Paging John Waters!

Dust blowing through downtown Carlsbad.

Astral Wendy was very excited to see her first Tumbleweed.
Elton John came to mind as I was dodging these things on the highway.

Here, this is not even considered a dust storm.

The drive up to the park headquarters and cavern entrance
winds through miles of scenic canyons.

Cactii, cactii, everywhere.

There's a big modern visitor center at the entrance to the caverns.

Ranger Gerry says "Do not eat the guano!"

We decided to walk down to the floor of the caverns using the natural
entrance. This leads to a winding trail that descends over 800 feet. Once
you reach the bottom, there is another major underground trail that's about
1.5 miles long. So we were down underground for a couple of hours. Then
we wimped out and took the elevator back to the surface.

The entrance is huge and dramatic. Here's one of the last views
of the sky we're about to see for awhile. Reminded me of that
one scene in Mozart's The Magic Flute.

Good-bye daylight.

Inside the caverns it's stalagmites and stalactites for miles and miles.

The paths are paved and well-railed. It's huge in there!
And always 56F degrees.

There are pools of water here and there.

The path is fairly steep in parts. My quads were burning.

I don't think the camo is working Astral Wendy.
I can see you.

Astral Wendy wanted to explore this hole until I pointed out the broken rungs.

In the Hall of the Giants.


In the Chapel of the Astral Wen.

We finally surfaced and it felt god to be back in the sunlight, despite the wind. We grabbed a bite at the Visitor Center restaurant (kitschy advertising works apparently) and headed back to camp.

The Pecos River. I can only think of Pecos Bill
every time I see the sign. And I don't even know
who Pecos Bill is.

The wind was still whipping up whitecaps on the lake when we
got back and then suddenly it just stopped like someone flipped
the off switch on a giant fan. Amazing.


  1. Your new header picture rocks! I think I would feel claustrophobic in the caves. The stalag-mites and -tites kind of creep me out too. Guess I'm not cut out for spelunking!

    And yes, hmmm indeed.

  2. Thanks Debra! Most of the cavernous rooms were expansive yet too dark to photograph. We didn't opt for the crawling cave experience which is true spelunking, though it was an option. I'm not that rugged where I would find that enjoyable!

  3. i am glad that you walked down. Too many people ride the elevator down and miss half the fun.

    You have to be a researcher to get into Lechuguilla cave but if you know 30 days out you are going to Crrlsbad, sign up for the Spider Cave tour. They take small groups in with lanterns to an undeveloped cave.

    Have fun living the dream you two (and Otis)as long as you possibly can.

    John Cortesy

  4. @Trikepilot: Thanks John. Yeah, I was reading about some of those ranger-led tours that require caving helmets, knee-pads, and gloves. Sounded a bit intense.

  5. O hai! I found your blog via Reddit. I just spent about 3 months travelling cross country (in a pick-up with two dogs). Isn't it amazing? Don't you love the whole cross-country/National Park culture? Were you prepared for the West to be so Western? That's what really blew my mind. I'm an East Coast girl and I always thought Western stuff was a kitschy cliche. I was so surprised that it was the real deal and it was SO RAD. I hear you on the water thing. That blew my mind, too. I actually broke down and bought a Camelback near Arches in UT bc my water bottle wasn't hydrating me at all when we were hiking. I think the toughest thing we acquired were our huge, blue waterjugs. I felt like I was in Waterworld when they were strapped to our truck. Are you doing Southern CO at all? Great Sand Dunes is terrible, but there is an amazing campground: They have this enormous, hot springs fed swimming pool. Plus, the area is WEIRD. We kept seeing Sister Wives at the Safeway. Anyway, HAVE SO MUCH FUN!! I am mad jealous. I can't wait to head out West for more wanderings again!

    PS: My questions are more exlamatory than actual inquiry. You don't have to anwer them! :D

  6. @Anonymous: I try to answer all questions although the reddit posting (by my son) pushed us from 40 reads to 25,000 in one day. Luckily, it's calmed down a bit. Yeah, I do love the culture of the road. The West is so completely different from what I'm used to that it blows my mind. We're heading over to southern CA to go to Coachella with our youngest son, then plan to back-track up through the Rockies as it gets a little warmer. I'll have to check out that campground. Sounds really cool. Thanks for stopping by.